Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says that he recognizes in retrospect that the team would’ve been better served to be more active at the trade deadline, as Angel Verdejo of the Houston Chronicle reports. But that wasn’t entirely apparent at the time, he stressed.
In particular, the losses of starters Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. left a difficult void for Houston down the stretch. But Luhnow says that he “didn’t have that perspective at that point,” referring to the August 1st trade deadline and its run-up. He also noted that, “over the long term, [foregoing additions] does sometimes turn out to be the right decision;” obviously, striking significant deals typically requires the sacrifice of young talent.
The “jury’s out” on whether the ’Stros should have been more aggressive this summer, says Luhnow, who does note that there are lessons to be learned from the 2016 experience. “I can’t control what happened after the deadline,” he said. “But we’re certainly going to continue to look at every opportunity going forward to give ourselves maybe a little more breathing room so if we do lose a player or we have some underperformance, that we’ve got more of a margin to still have a successful campaign.”
The Houston GM also addressed a variety of other important topics for the organization as it moves forward after missing the postseason.
Entering the offseason, among the organization’s areas to improve are outfield, first base, and catcher, Luhnow said and Jordan Ray of MLB.com tweets. That’s a fairly extensive list, though certainly there are a variety of internal options already on hand as well as plenty of open-market (if not also trade) possibilities. While the Astros’ pen performed well overall, “one glaring area is from the left side,” says Luhnow, via Mark Berman of FOX 26 (on Twitter), so that would appear to be another spot that could receive attention.
Given the above comments about the starting staff, it too could receive some consideration. Among several wild cards in the team’s plans, perhaps, is 25-year-old righty Chris Devenski. He excelled over 108 1/3 innings, with a 2.16 ERA and 8.6 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9, though he only made five starts in his debut campaign. The “dream” is for Devenski to stick in the rotation, Luhnow said and Berman tweets.
Facilitating new additions always requires a look at the balance sheet, of course. Houston opened 2016 with just under $100MM on its books, the highest level since 2009. With about $34MM committed for next season, and some significant arb salaries to account for, there’s still room to play with. But the ownership group is also willing to bump up the club’s payroll, per Luhnow, as Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter links). “We’re going to have the resources to go out and sign some players,” said Luhnow.
The stated need for improvement in the outfield is a reflection, in part, on the already-known fact that Colby Rasmus is headed to the open market. He’ll do so after a disappointing campaign in which he compiled a .206/.286/.355 batting line over 417 plate appearances. Health certainly played a factor, but the 30-year-old simply “did not have the year that he was hoping to have,” says Luhnow, who adds that Rasmus “still has value to major league teams” and will no doubt find an opportunity somewhere. (Via another tweet from Berman.) But the next shot may well come with another team; the GM says that he is “not sure how, or if, [Rasmus] fits into our plans at this point.”
Finally, Luhnow suggested that the team was pleased with the performance of skipper A.J. Hinch and his field staff. Hinch and his coaches will all return for 2017, as Verdejo tweets.